Name: Rashaun Ellis
Location: Athens, GA
What you “do” in your own words: I write.
What is your style philosophy in a nutshell?
Personally, I think my style philosophy is totally boring and cliche, but it works for a lot of people. I say wear what makes you feel good and sexy, because when I feel sexy I feel better about myself all-around. I think that for wimmin – and especially single wimmin with some extra meat on their bones – it’s easy to get used to being marginalized by either the media’s image of beauty or just by being the only fat girl in a group of friends. I think that fat girls have to step it up a notch, always, to remind us that we’re just as hot as the next lady, as well as viable members of the singles scene. Now I worry that sounds a little ‘catty’ but I don’t mean it that way at all…but just think of how much better you feel after you get dressed and put on a little lipstick. As a feminist I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cultivating that positive feeling every day.
Where do you like to shop for clothes?
ANY and EVERYWHERE. Seriously. Lately I’ve had a serious preference for some of the vintage shops where I live. I just love driving my truck into the town square on Saturdays and hitting up Minx and Agora, two of my favorites. In my hometown in Mississippi there’s Donna’s, which is an antique store that has a room full of clothes in it, and I mean exactly that – there are clothes and shoes all over the floor, spilling out of boxes, etc. My mama is a seamstress so I love finding handmade stuff in thrift stores. I also love the more run-of-the-mill thrift stores that have $3 dresses and tons of old TVs. Somehow, someway, I have a knack for sniffing out labels in thrift stores, too – I’ve got Yves St Laurent, Fendi, Isaac Mizrahi, Halston, etc at thrift stores in the south! When it comes to business-casual douchebag looks, there’s always mall stores like Old Navy. Day to day I wear a lot of tiny little dresses and boots. I was born in 1981 so of course I love the “lady grunge” aesthetic. My biggest guilty pleasures are places that do fake vintage like H&M and Forever 21. And when it comes to makeup I have the same approach – any and everywhere. Recently I went to Sephora and spent $25 on a lipstain that looks like crayon when it dried, but when I went to a Rite Aid and found a waaaay better one by Cover Girl for like $7. You live and you learn.
Who are your personal style icons and influences?
I wouldn’t say that I actively emulate any particular person’s style, but I am definitely inspired by certain people’s looks and the energy of certain eras in human history. I mentioned earlier that I was born in 1981, and one of my favorite movies was Earth Girls are Easy. Geena Davis never looked foxier!! Style influences of my youth were Linnea Quigley, Wendy O. Williams, Klymaxx, Phyllis Hyman, Jet, Brigitte Nielsen, Grace Jones, and both Julie Browns. As I got older I started politicizing fashion (big mistake) and I preferred more sullen creatures like Shirley Manson and Kelli Dayton from the Sneaker Pimps. Now that I’m 30 I am still quite heavily influenced by the broad-shouldered glamour of the 80s and spirit of that time, as well as the seventies and the sixties – but not in a Mad Men sort of way. You can keep Don Draper because Sergio Mendes and I are drinking Grasshoppers by the pool with Les Baxter.
If you could live in any era of fashion history when would it be?
Tough one! You can see that I feel quite close to the 80s but I am also obsessed with all of the photos of my parents as a couple in the seventies. Giant afros, big hoop earrings, white wall tires on their cars. Also there’s my preoccupation with lounge music from the 50s-70s that makes me long for spacious interior design and the tendency towards mid-calf full skirts (a great cut for people with larger tummies like me). If I had to choose, I’d be the proprietor of a lounge in 1960 Montenegro where Martin Denny and Yma Sumac played monthly and you could smoke inside. My dresses would always be sparkling and have scooped backs and my makeup would be SICKENING.
What do you think about the relationship between body image and fashion? Personally, I sometimes feel like my fashion options are sometimes limited by the fact that I’m plus-sized.
Well I’m 14/16/18 depending on the time of the month, and I feel you 100% on that! I’m personally fucking TIRED of people telling me that fashion and body image aren’t tied, and those people are usually way thinner than I am/we are! Fashion is an industry first and foremost, and in order to be at the top of any industry in a capitalist culture, you have to project the image that your product is better than all others. And since fat people have the social stigma of being lazy, tacky, shamefully dressed, etc., you can’t dress fat people and still expect to be considered haute couture. I mean it happens, like when Gaultier used Crystal Renn in his spring show that time (but she was only like a 12, which is much closer to “not fat” than an 18 is) and the fashion world was a-twitter, but most designers don’t want their clothes made to fit fat people! Apparently that alien cunt Karl Lagerfeld pitched a fit a few years ago when it H&M collection was made in sizes above a US 10! Fuck you, too, buddy! Ya know? Fat ladies can’t see things like this and internalize them – you gotta shop at stores that appreciate your business and your body, and I hate it when ladies lose weight just to be accepted. Get in shape, take care of yourself by all means, but don’t do it for alien cunts who just want your money. We’re worth more than that.
You recently left a job where you were informed that you had “violated the company dress code more than once.” What exactly did that mean?
HAHAHA. Oh, that meant that the accountant is a miserable and loathesome person who also thought she was the HR director for the company. This womyn was fucking FIXATED on my tits. In seriousness, the whole situation was a big misunderstanding. I had the bosses – the owners, the people at the top – telling me that apparel wasn’t an issue, and then I had this uncomfortably friendly check-signer constantly making comments about my tits and my legs. And suddenly one day she’s got me in her fucking office for half an hour going on and on about professionalism and how I must have been passed over for SO MANY jobs because I went to the interview dressed like a stupid whore (which is not true, and I have no idea where she got that information). Perhaps it was a “if I can’t have those huge black tits, then no one at this firm will!” sort of situation. I’m mostly bullshitting about the crush stuff (though her interest in my body WAS off-putting) but I really think it was an issue of jealousy. I’m confident in my body and my style of dress, and when you’re a miserable person like this accountant was, it’s hard to see another person’s light shining.
You’re not the first big-busted woman I’ve heard complain about being accused of dressing too “provocatively” at work when wearing something that wouldn’t be considered problematic on a smaller-breasted woman. What is your advice for busty ladies for dressing fierce without looking like either a porn star or someone’s grandmother?
First things first: GET A PROFESSIONAL FITTING. Just go to the Lane Bryant at your local mall and let them take your size – and please, don’t fucking start crying and whining about how you need to lose weight afterward. Wearing the wrong size bra makes you look way fatter than wearing the right one will, even if you think the number’s ridiculous. Once you’ve got your true size, BUY NICER BRAS. The only ladies who can get away with bras from Target are ladies who are a 36C or smaller. Go to Lane Bryant, Torrid, Ashley Stewart, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Intimacy, wherever – just spend the money and you’ll see the results. Also, don’t wash your bras that often. That’ll tear them up. Wash them every other week (or less) and never put them in the dryer, always hang them up. When choosing clothes, go fucking nuts. Wear whatever you want, because if your bra game is tight, most anything will looks hot on you. Dress appropriately for whatever occasion you’re in, and if you’re shaped like me (big tits, large tummy, long legs) a higher waistline on a full-skirted dress is always killer. Makes the titties go pop!
What are your current favorite clothing pieces, accessories and beauty products? What makes you feel sexy and confident, and what feels comfortable and relaxing to wear?
My #1 dress right now is a floor-length black dress I got from Old Navy, and I feel so comfortable and relaxed in it that I’ve often fallen asleep in it! When I’m dressing up it’s a flowery red dress with a peplum and a deep neckline – I just LOVE peplums and I’m happy that they’re not really catching on because I get to feel super unique when I wear this dress. For more stylish but casual looks I’m really into this short black dress and my rusty blue leather boots – total Courtney Love realness. I’ve been breaking out a lot lately so I don’t wear foundation right now, but my favorite lipstick is Red Zin by Bare Minerals. I love deep, bright reds that make me think of Club MTV dancers. I also got this glossy purple lipstick from Sephora that looks amazing with super cheap Wet ‘n Wild lip pencil I bought. I don’t wear many accessories, but I keep my nails DONE. And I mean oiled, filed, painted moisturized – when it comes to my beauty regimen, I am most proud of the results I get from my manicures. My nails grow long and clean and they take polish like they grow with a natural basecoat. My nails are the only thing that makes me believe that there could possibly be a God out there.
I also love perfume. Ladies, wear it! You don’t need a $120 bottle of J’Adore, just a nice fragance that makes you feel sexy. My personal preference is for musky scents like the aforementioned, as well as Donna Karan’s Cashmere Silk and my all-time favorite Fendi Fantasia. I also have some fantastic perfume oils in little roll-on bottles given to me by my brother-in-law Michael, who works for a phone company now but has sold natural oils, soaps, lotions, etc. since he was a child. I would also encourage any ladies out there with sensitive skin like me to do the obvious by using organic/natural products on their bodies. Cheap organic body care can be found at Trader Joe’s or in the “ethnic hair care” section of most pharmacies and beauty supply stores. Seriously- even your cotton balls should be organic, because cotton is the most heavily sprayed GMO crop on the market today.
Check out this awesome video tour of Shaun’s closet, and keep an eye out for new writing from this fierce fashionista in coming weeks!